Philip Pearlstein  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Philip Pearlstein (born May 24, 1924) is an American painter, one of the most important and innovative artists of the contemporary Realist school.

Pearlstein was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology and received his Masters in art history at New York University. During the time that Pearlstein began to work realistically the Modernists were absolute in their rejection of the Realist option.

Although Pearlstein remained as much a Modernist as any of his contemporaries, he found himself obliged to reconsider the Realist option, and in so doing helped to reinvent the terms by which Realism could once again be made into a vital art. The Milwaukee Art Museum honored him with a retrospective exhibition in 1983 and accompanied the exhibition with a monograph on his complete paintings.

The use of the nude figure, male and female, in art has its precedent in prehistoric cave paintings and sculpture. Since then, the nude has been used in a variety of ways, both symbolic and erotic. All of the traditions of the past in painting and sculpture have presented us with the human body in every conceivable pose and situation sanctioned by history, religion, or mythology. In the twentieth century, however, we have acquired a new method of comprehending what we see. It is the act of seeing only what we see, without reference to symbology or association, to see form for its own sake, abstractly.

In Pearlstein's paintings, the human body, placed in a corner of a floodlighted studio, has assumed a whole new range of plastic realities; for instance, the relationship of limbs to torso; the continuity of skin and muscle. The mass and weight of the body are emphasized in the unstudied character of the pose: all are normal in our experience, but the point of view from which we see them is so detached that the facts they represent seem new.

It is interesting to note that at the beginning of his career Pearlstein painted many landscapes, usually rock-strewn hillsides in which every angle, shadow, and shape was seen with a clinical clarity. In a sense, his nudes are also landscapes. The human body, as a natural phenomenon devoid of any identity other than the attributes of sex and skin color, is, for Pearlstein, another world of forms. The painting "Models With Mirror" is an example of his concern for the body as form. The curves, shapes, volumes, and surfaces are all masterfully put together within the picture space. The recognition of the form is at the same time a recognition, probably subliminal, of ourselves. If it is not comfortable or flattering, it is, at least, tonic.

Pearlstein's work is in 63 museums collections in the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. He recently showed at the Century Association, New York; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Galerie Haas, Zurich; and Galerie Haas & Fuchs]], Berlin, Germany.

Additionally, since the mid-1950's Pearlstein has received several awards, most recently, the National Council of Arts Administrators Visual Artist Award; The Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal, The Artists Fellowship, Inc., New York, NY; and honorary doctorate degrees from Brooklyn College, NY, Center for Creative Studies and the College of Art & Design, Detroit, MI, and New York Academy of Arts, New York, NY. Pearlstein is currently President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Philip Pearlstein" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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